When I first saw the Barn Theatre revival of Simon Stephens‘ 2003 play One Minute, the things that struck me most were, in no particular order: the ground-breaking video projection design (by PJ McEvoy, film sequences by Ben Collins), the delicate performances of the five-strong cast, the seamless-but-sinister weaving of social media into a story written pre-social media ubiquity, and the stunningly assured direction of Barn artistic director Iwan Lewis making his directorial debut.
So the day before I was due to return to Cirencester to host my second post-show discussion at the Barn Theatre, after the event last month to their inaugural production of family musical The Secret Garden, I was surprised to be informed of a change of focus. The language in Stephens’ play had sparked a local controversy amongst some theatregoers who found it to be excessive, unnecessary and offensive.
The theatre was keen to address this head on and make the post-show discussion more of a debate. For this, in addition to Lewis and the cast – Rebecca Crankshaw, Garry Summers, Sarah Hanly, Jack Bence and Sophie May Wake – the Barn invited two local representatives, Joe Harris, former mayor of Cirencester and now chair of the Cotswolds District Council, and local clergyman, Reverend Gary Grady.
The debate was conducted in an incredibly open and generous spirit, with many views and observations shared by both the panel and the audience. For this seasoned London theatregoer, it was also a reminder that, however much I may take cultural norms for granted, sensitivities can vary greatly and better understanding starts with active listening.
Nevertheless, as I said in the discussion, from my perspective, swearing is the least interesting aspect of either Simon Stephens‘ play or this production. So I was glad to be able to ultimately steer the discussion away from that and onto themes in the play – around grief, loneliness, missing children, the wonders and terrors of London living, six degrees of separation and more – and production innovations.
(By the way, I did for research do a count. So here you go, expletive data geeks: there are 48 fucks, 11 shits and three cunts in Stephens’ 90-minute play about the abduction of a child and how dealing with the grief and uncertainty relating to this affects five lives.)
Watch the full Q&A livestream care of the Barn Theatre below. For more, extensive coverage on the production, see MyTheatreMates.com.
Event photography by Peter Jones.